Over the past two decades, many curriculum changes have occurred in geology, Earth science, and environmental science programs in universities. Many of these have involved the compression of separate one-semester courses in mineralogy, optical mineralogy, and petrology into a single-semester offering that combines mineralogy and petrology, commonly called Earth Materials. Such a course is a challenge to the instructor (or a team of instructors) and the students. This is especially so when few, if any, textbooks for such a one-semester course have been available.
This text, Earth Materials, is an introduction to mineralogy and petrology in which both subjects are covered with a roughly even balance. To keep this textbook reasonably short and applicable to a one-semester course, we decided against providing a shallow survey of everything and instead concentrated on what we consider the most fundamental aspects of the various subjects.
In the writing of this text, we assumed that the students who enroll in an Earth materials course would have previously taken an introductory physical geology course, as well as a course in college-level chemistry.
Basic aspects of mineralogy must precede the coverage of petrology. This sequence is obvious from the chapter headings. After a brief, general introduction in Chapter 1, minerals and rocks are broadly defined in Chapter 2. That is followed by three chapters that relate to various mineralogical aspects and concepts. Chapter 3 covers the identification techniques that students must become familiar with to recognize unknown minerals in the laboratory and in the field. It also includes discussion of two common instrumental techniques: X-ray powder diffraction and electron beam methods. Chapter 4 covers the most fundamental aspects of crystal chemistry, and Chapter 5 is a short introduction to basic aspects of crystallography. Chapter 6 covers optical mineralogy. This subject is included so that instructors who plan to introduce thin sections of rocks in their course can give their students quick access to the fundamentals of optical mineralogy and the optical properties of rock-forming minerals.
The sequencing of subsequent systematic mineralogy chapters is completely different from that most commonly used in mineralogy textbooks. In these chapters, minerals are discussed in groups based first on chemistry (native elements, oxides, silicates, and so on) and, subsequently, for the silicates, on structural features (layer, chain, and framework silicates, and so on).